Ideas and tips for daily life
with relapsing MS
Jacqueline E., with her family
MS LifeLines Ambassador,
living with relapsing MS
There is not a special diet plan for those living with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS). But maintaining a healthy diet is a good idea for anyone. Of course, changing eating habits can be difficult, so try setting small, easily attainable goals. Try a new recipe once a month. Cut out dessert once or twice a week. You get the idea. Just make sure to talk to your doctor before starting any diet or nutritional program.Strategies for managing your diet
When changing your diet, it’s best to start slow. Diet plans that involve dramatic changes are harder to start and maintain.
Eating a healthy snack before going to a party or other social events can help curb your appetite and limit indulging in more high-calorie foods.
Choose fresh fruit or yogurt instead of ice cream, turkey instead of ham for a sandwich, and precut veggies or pretzels instead of potato chips.
Water helps maintain a normal body temperature. For some people, a rise in body temperature may temporarily exacerbate symptoms or lead to fatigue.
including refined “white” grains. They may offer empty calories that fill you up but don’t offer the nutritional value your body needs.
It takes 20 minutes before you start feeling full, so try taking smaller portions at first and eating slower.
Exercise may help with building strength and improving your mood. If you’re living with MS, you may be concerned about having enough energy, stamina, or coordination to exercise. Fortunately, there are many different ways to get exercise for a variety of fitness levels and physical abilities.Six activities to get you started
Things like walking to the bus or performing household chores count as exercise, too. Getting in as little as 30 minutes a day can help you enjoy the benefits of exercise. It may be challenging at times, but stick with it. Before starting an exercise regimen, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider.
There are many ways to get regular physical activity. Here are a few examples:
A gentle physical exercise, tai chi involves over 100 postures and movements. Suitable for various fitness levels, it can be performed sitting or standing.
Using exercise balls, balance boards, and therapeutic balls can all help improve stability. A physical therapist or other healthcare providers should guide you in these exercises.
Always exercise safely. Try to warm up your body before and cool down after. Remember to “listen to your body.” If you start to hurt or feel sick, stop and take a break. And with MS, it’s important to keep cool. Some people may notice that some MS symptoms reappear or become worse when their body heat rises. Stay out of excessive direct sunlight, stay hydrated, and consider swimming (it’s a great way to stay fit and cool). Your healthcare provider may have some more tips to help you deal with the heat.
Stress is a normal part of life. However, the uncertainty that living with MS brings can add more. Reducing stress wherever you can may make it easier to manage changes in your life and health.Eight stress-busting ideas
Your adult family and friends might be a great resource in helping you deal with your MS. By talking openly and honestly, you may help them learn how they can support you best.Your partner | Your friends
You’ll find lots of great ideas on our Facebook page. Check it out to see what people are saying.
If you are married or in a committed relationship, MS will probably play a role in your relationship in some way. It can bring not only unexpected challenges, but also surprising rewards. Working together to overcome obstacles can bring you closer together. But it does require shared commitment and effort.
As you take on your MS together, don’t forget to set aside some couple time, keep the lines of communication open, and learn to ask for help.
Disclosing your MS to others is a personal decision. Whether you decide to tell others about your MS is up to you. There is no right or wrong way to talk about it. Tailor information as you see fit to the individual and the situation. Over time, you’ll be able to gauge the reactions of different friends to determine if, when, and how much you want to disclose.
If you’re a parent or family member living with MS, you may have some concerns about talking to kids about your condition. You might wonder how much you should tell them, or if telling them about your MS will confuse or scare them. It's natural to want to protect them, but when it comes to talking to kids, honesty may be the best policy.Talking to your kids
Children are bound to have lots of questions about MS. What is MS? Can I catch MS from you? How will MS affect me? Try to answer truthfully in an age-appropriate way.
You may also want to reassure the kids that you can't “catch MS.” It's not like a cold. If children want to know how MS will affect them and your family, be honest. MS is different for every person; although you can't tell kids exactly what to expect, you can still prepare them for possibilities.
Try to remember that kids are adaptable. The key is open communication. As long as they have the facts and feel reassured, most children can adjust to just about anything.
Although men make up only about one third of the relapsing MS population, MS can often hit them harder than it does women. How men deal with MS can be different, too.Tips for men
MS LifeLines Ambassador Ric S. helps run an MS support group for men near his home in California. While he believes that coed support groups can be very beneficial, he says that sometimes spending time with just the guys can offer unique benefits. “If anything, I think it’s a comfort thing for the guys who come. Sometimes you just need to take a breath,” he says.
Dr Rick Munschauer, a neurologist with EMD Serono, agrees that if a man is more comfortable speaking his mind with the guys, that’s great. The important thing is to communicate. Some men may feel isolated if they’re no longer able to do their usual activities, like playing sports. Self-esteem can also take a hit if MS affects employment status. He says, “Although MS is less common in men than in women, it tends to be more aggressive.” So this is not a time to tough it out.
“Men tend to minimize their symptoms, which can make it harder for the physician to assess what’s going on,” adds Dr Munschauer. So be open and direct with your healthcare provider about the full range of ways MS impacts your life—and tell your family, too. “A lot of times, I’ll hear from a spouse, ‘I just don’t know what’s going on with him.’ I think men have to learn to be more expressive about the impact MS has on their life.” Fortunately, there are a lot of people like Ric who are ready to listen.
Dr Munschauer is Vice President for US Medical Affairs for Neurology at EMD Serono, Inc. He spent 25 years actively caring for MS patients before joining EMD Serono.
Many people with MS continue to work long after they are diagnosed. You have to figure out what's best for you, including whether or not to disclose your condition at work. The National MS Society website provides some information about disclosure in the workplace. You may also want to seek legal guidance before you disclose.Fatigue tips | Cognitive considerations
Two factors that may influence your decision are fatigue, the feeling of tiredness, and cognitive issues, which are difficulties thinking clearly. Some options for dealing with these symptoms can be found on our symptom page. Here are some overall tips for addressing both.
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